Toronto Catholic school board works to hire teachers as more students register for online school

TORONTO — The Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) says it is still working to get online instruction up and running following “an increase in newly registered students” to virtual school.

The TCDSB said approximately 25,000 students are enrolled in remote learning and officials have been trying to sort our school schedules and teaching placements over the past few weeks.

“Preparing for an immersive online educational experience on such a scale has come with unprecedented challenges. We have seen an increase in newly registered students across both elementary and secondary panels which is requiring the on-boarding of more teaching staff,” Shazia Vlahos, a spokesperson with the TCDSB, said in a statement emailed to CP24.

“While we are confident these positions will be filled imminently, we acknowledge there may be some shortfalls in the first week of virtual learning. As such, we are phasing in start times.”

The school board says all students will have access to live virtual lessons today and the majority of elementary students will begin classes with their assigned teacher starting Tuesday.

“Some elementary students will have staggered start times throughout the week. For secondary students, classes with course teachers will begin on Friday,” Vlahos said.

The delay comes after the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) was forced to push back the start of its virtual school by one week due to an increase in enrolment.

Last week, the TDSB confirmed that thousands of elementary students made the switch from in-person learning to virtual instruction just days before classes were set to begin, prompting the school board to delay the start of its virtual program to Sept. 22.

“It is just the staffing around trying to plan for more than 73,000 kids, which would really equate to the total enrolment of most Ontario school boards,” TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird said last week. “It really is massive.”

Parents likely made the last-minute switch due to the rise in COVID-19 cases in the province, TDSB Chair Alexander Brown said.

“As the numbers start to creep up, I guess we all start to worry more. I guess this is one of the reasons we saw a shift back to virtual,” he said last week. “Maybe some parents were fearful and they want to wait and see where we are in a week or two and I get that.”

In a memo posted on its website on Sunday, the TDSB said it is working “as quickly as possible” to schedule “as many students as possible” to begin secondary virtual school starting Tuesday.

“Due to the more than 18,000 students enrolled in Secondary Virtual School (4,000 more than projected) and due to ongoing efforts to hire staff to meet our needs, some students will have received an empty timetable with no courses,” the memo read.

“For students in this position, please be assured that guidance counsellors continue to schedule students and we ask that you continue to check your Brightspace account to see if classes have been loaded by Tuesday morning.”

For students who do not have a timetable by Tuesday morning, the TDSB said plans are in place to open up new classes as soon as more teachers can be secured.

“Information and instructions about how to sign up for these new classes will be provided once new courses and teachers are finalized. We will also adjust quadmester start and end dates for these new courses,” the memo continued.

“All students will receive the support they need and will not begin the school year behind in their courses as term dates for these new courses will be adjusted.”

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